EDF Health

Sperm Concerns: Sons Affected by Mom’s Exposure to Forever Chemicals

Illustration of gray sperm swimming toward a dark purple egg on a light purple background

By Lauren Ellis, MPH, Research Analyst, Safer Chemicals

What’s New: A peer-reviewed study by Danish researchers found that a male fetus who is exposed to PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—also known as “forever chemicals”) during early pregnancy is more likely to have lower sperm quality in early adulthood.

It’s the first study to explore the impact of exposure to more than two PFAS compounds (as measured in maternal blood samples during early pregnancy) on adult male reproductive hormones and sperm quality.

Why It Matters: Poor sperm quality is directly related to male infertility. In addition, it has been linked to other health problems such as testicular cancer, heart disease, and all-cause mortality.

This study adds to decades of literature linking environmental chemical exposures to negative impacts on reproductive health.

Key Lessons from the Study:

  • Women who were pregnant 20+ years ago had multiple types of PFAS in their blood. The study used data on a group of Danish women who were pregnant between 1998-2003. The women gave blood samples, which were then frozen and stored; 95% of those samples were taken in the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • In 2020-2021, researchers tested those maternal samples for 15 different PFAS compounds. They found 7 of the 15 in the bloodstream of nearly 90% of mothers in the study. The seven were: PFHxS, PFHpA, PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFDA, and PFUnDA.
  • Exposure to PFAS during pregnancy decreases the sperm quality of adult male offspring. Researchers found that both combined and single exposure to maternal PFAS concentrations during early pregnancy had a negative effect on the sperm quality—particularly sperm count, concentration, and movement—of adult male offspring.

Our Takeaway: The new study presents a startling finding—developmental exposures to chemicals are associated with long lasting harm, including impacts that can affect future generations. It also adds to the growing evidence of PFAS health risks and demonstrates the urgent need for more health-protective PFAS policies and regulations.

Next Steps: EDF and our partners are pushing EPA to revoke existing PFAS exemptions and require those PFAS (and new PFAS coming to market) to undergo a full safety review under the Toxic Substances Control Act, our nation’s primary chemical safety law.

It is critical that these evaluations also consider the cumulative risk of exposure to PFAS mixtures in the environment.

Note: In June 2021, EDF, with a group of health, environmental, and consumer organizations, sent a formal petition to FDA asking the agency to ban all PFAS  that accumulate in the body. That petition is still under review.

Also posted in Emerging Science, EPA, PFAS, Regulation / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

The many ways the American Chemistry Council wants to turn back time on TSCA implementation – Part 1

Part 1 of a 2-part series: Minimizing or ignoring chemical risks

Maria Doa, Ph.D., Senior Director, Chemicals Policy 

In its recently issued ‘State of TSCA’ report, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) tries to turn back the clock on how EPA assesses and mitigates the risks of toxic chemicals. The chemical industry group looks to return to the policies of the Trump years – a time rife with scientific integrity issues and wholesale disregard of risks – particularly those risks to frontline communities, workers and other vulnerable groups: the very groups the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) calls out for special consideration.

This 2-part blog series looks at the six ways ACC hopes to turn back time on chemical safety and looks at the harms that would result if trade group’s self-serving ideas were to be adopted. Part 1 looks at the types of risks ACC wants EPA to exclude from its chemical risk evaluations, the workers and other groups whose health would be affected, as well as the trade group’s goal to have itself appointed as the arbitrator of EPA science. Part 2 looks at ACC’s efforts to dictate the process for assessing new chemicals and industry’s clear goal to avoid paying its fair share of the cost to evaluate the risks posed by some of the most dangerous chemicals already in the marketplace.  Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Health Policy, Industry Influence, TSCA Reform, Worker Safety / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Environmental racism exists in our beauty products and must be addressed

Jennifer Ortega, Research Analyst, Environmental Health

Environmental racism is everywhere. At the neighborhood level, communities of color often experience worse air quality, fewer green spaces, or face more extreme temperatures. At the household level, families of color and low-income families experience a higher risk of lead in their drinking water and higher utility debt and energy insecurity. Inequities are even manifested in the items we use every day, with personal care products marketed to women of color often containing more toxic ingredients than those marketed to white women.

These toxic exposures are not driven by individual choices, but rather by where one lives, where one works, and by cultural beauty standards and norms. A new personal care product story map (also available in Spanish) consolidates federal labor and census data, as well as information from public health studies to show how the intersection of different factors manifests in racial disparities in the exposure to toxic ingredients in personal care products.  The map is part of an interactive web series, led by Tamarra James-Todd, Ph.D., and her team at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Read More »

Also posted in Industry Influence, Markets and Retail, Public Health / Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

Our experience with FDA’s food chemical program reinforces alarming findings from Politico investigation

Tom Neltner, Senior Director, Safer Chemicals and Maricel Maffini, consultant

A powerful investigative article by Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich revealed significant structural and leadership problems at the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food program. The article articulated what has been implicitly understood by the food safety community. It led to demands from Congress for Commissioner Robert Califf to take aggressive action and even prompted calls for a new agency focused solely on food safety.

“Over the years, the food side of FDA has been so ignored and grown so dysfunctional that even former FDA commissioners readily acknowledged problems. There’s a long running joke among officials: The “F” in FDA is silent.”

– Helena Bottemiller Evich

from Politico article

In response, FDA leadership has pointed to Congress for failing to adequately fund the program and touted examples of where the agency has taken action on food safety.

Yesterday, 30 groups representing food industry leaders, and consumer groups, including EDF, joined in a call for Califf to unify the FDA’s food program under a deputy commissioner for foods with direct line authority over all food-related programs.

We have been advocating for FDA to improve the safety of chemicals added to our food for more than a decade, often working with FDA officials to push for regulatory reforms. From that narrow but deep perspective on food safety, everything we have seen reinforces the shortcomings highlighted in the Politico article. Read More »

Also posted in FDA, Food, GRAS / Tagged , | Comments are closed

EPA to release assessment of toxic formaldehyde, rejects industry’s tired delay tactics

Maria Doa, Ph.D., Senior Director, Chemicals Policy 

The EPA will release a draft Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment of formaldehyde, a key scientific review that identifies and characterizes the hazards from chronic exposure to this known carcinogen. The draft assessment, due to be published tomorrow, will be reviewed by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (National Academies).

We welcome the EPA’s decision to issue its formaldehyde assessment. Release of the assessment is a win for scientific integrity that follows years of pressure from industry groups and efforts during the previous administration to suppress the assessment. 

The EPA’s IRIS program is the gold standard for identifying and characterizing the hazards that result from exposure to chemicals. Its findings are essential to informing health-based standards that protect frontline communities, workers, children, consumers and more.   Read More »

Also posted in EPA, Health Policy, Industry Influence, Public Health / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

EPA can incorporate cumulative impacts in its chemical assessments right now

By Maria Doa, Senior Director, Chemicals Policy, and Lariah Edwards, Ph.D., EDF-George Washington University Postdoctoral Fellow

EPA recently asked its Science Advisory Board to provide advice on how it can incorporate cumulative impact assessments into its decisions making and on research to support cumulative impact assessments. At a public meeting of the SAB on March 2, we highlighted several areas where EPA can incorporate cumulative impact assessments right now.

Cumulative impacts refer to the total burden from chemical and non-chemical stressors and their effect on health, well-being, and quality of life. EPA asked the SAB for advice in two areas: First, what research should the agency conduct to strengthen the methods used in cumulative impact assessments. Second, and somewhat more important, how can EPA start now to incorporate cumulative impact assessments into its decision-making using data that is currently available.

People living in communities are often exposed to multiple chemical and non-chemical stressors. When individuals are exposed to multiple chemicals that cause a particular type of harm, they do not experience the risks for each chemical separately from the other. Nor are these chemical burdens experienced in isolation from other non-chemical stressors a person may face, like nutritional deficiencies or psychosocial stress. Cumulative impact assessments consider the combination and impact of both types of stressors, and therefore are more reflective of real-life conditions.

EPA assessments and decision making should take into consideration this reality and move away as much as possible from the status quo of evaluating one source, one chemical, and one environmental medium. Read More »

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